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Graham Greene by Neil McEwan (auth.)

By Neil McEwan (auth.)

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This sort of optimism, in the 1930s, went uneasily with a fear among intellectuals that the popular culture had been permanently impoverished, or destroyed. The old man sings of romance in verses remembered from youth; the girl, though she wants to please him, sings of cynical infidelity, in a brand-new tissue of cheap phrases, which is all she has to remember. Another 'public' irony bears on the English. The connotations of 'England' and 'English', for intelligent people of Greene's generation, changed from the unquestioning assurance of Empire instilled in childhood to equally vapid assumptions about 'late capitalism' when the Great War, followed by grave economic depression, thinned confidence.

Dunn's Babies, dressed as railway guards except for their shorts, dance and sing, in the final pages. Ifyou want to express That kind of gloom You feel alone in a double room. Myatt is in the middle of an account of a girl's hysterical breakdown. Song lyrics comment like this in many of Greene's novels. This song, distinctly up-to-date in 1932 and now distinctly 'thirties', is appropriately glib for an after-dinner show, but the shallow hedonism is made to sound an expression of English culture, a sign of indifference, by the presence of a Turkish audience which includes (improbably) women only recently emancipated from veils.

He pays for a first-class ticket for Coral, sleeps with her and promises to make her his mistress, a modest success which she finds too good to be true. His rival is Miss Warren, who has been in love with Janet Pardoe, but fears that this 'companion' will soon defect, as it were, to a man. Greene treats his character's homosexuality with sympathy for the suffering which it involves and mockery of its consolations. She must ·have been even more bizzare to the average reader of 1932 than she is today.

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